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Muni’s worst clunker buses to be replaced for big price tag: $244M

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A woman walks past a 22-Fillmore Muni bus in San Francisco, on April 18, 2017. (James Chan/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Muni’s oldest, clunkiest buses — responsible for nearly half of all daily breakdowns — are on their way out, after a vote by San Francisco’s transportation board Tuesday.

And by 2019 all of those “trolley buses,” so named for their twin electric poles, will be replaced by 185 new buses manufactured by New Flyer Inc. for $244 million after the San Francisco Municipal Transportation voted to extend a contract with New Flyer Inc. on Tuesday.

“There is a sense of urgency about this,” SFMTA Director of Transportation John Haley said.

The buses on their way out the door were manufactured by the now-defunct Electric Transit Inc., and though they make up a “relatively small percentage” of Muni’s total daily mileage, Haley said, they represent 40 percent of mechanical-related service delays.

In the past, Haley has called them “clunkers.”

“They have no off-wire capability. If you’re stuck, and there’s a collision, anything coming up behind it couldn’t go around,” he told the board. “It can go up to 5 miles an hour usually for like a block.”

The New Flyer trolleys, by contrast, traveled “from Ocean Beach to the Transbay Terminal” during test runs at speeds of up to 40 mph, Haley said.

Electric trolley buses are used on Muni’s 15 steepest, hilliest routes, like the 33-Stanyan and the 22-Fillmore, and serve some 200,000 daily riders. About $213 million of the price tag will go to purchasing the buses themselves, with the rest going toward spare parts, training and taxes, according to the SFMTA.

The new buses will begin to arrive by the end of 2017, Haley said, and will fully replace the ETI buses by the end of 2019.

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